I have thin skin. Some days I'm as porous as a cuttlefish, soaking up the sufferings of random people I share pavement space with. Some days I'm as ragged as a plastic bag that's been flapping on a barbed wire fence for a week.
I have to be diligent about repairing my colander aura. I practice a technique called "zipping up" where you literally have to seal up your solar plexus chakra with the palm of your hand. Sometimes I have to mantra myself with "I don't need to get my energy from anybody and nobody needs to get their energy from me." Its like the valve on my heart chakra is faulty and I must remember to replace the seal.
Sometimes its a good thing. Its helpful in my chosen career of theatre making, for example, as I can empath the world around me and channel it into something. Many actors suffer from this condition, the ability to absorb emotions and vibrations, and transmute them into fine, quivering peformances. I can work with those actors.
It might have something to do with having grown up in one of the wildest places on earth, the South Luangwa Valley, when it was still really, really wild. For more on this, read my sister's delightful posts on www.thetimesofmiranda.blogspot.com . As a toddler I had both the boundless skies of life lived outdoors combined with my mother's terror of the very real dangers (lionssnakesscorpionselephantscrocodiles) that lurked closer than the umbilical stretch most toddlers want to experiment with. Its no wonder I have issues with dependence in my relationships (furious need to be independent plus sometimes crippling need for reasurance from a solid other.)
I cut my teeth on the backs of motorbikes and open landrovers. Your spirit can really unravel like a kitestring on the open plains of the Luangwa. The zebra flats, the salt pans, Lupunga spur. The Lukusuzi riverbed, silt-white under the moon. The sudden cool pocket of potatobush air as you dip into a gully, racing home at dusk. My energy would soar and spiral like a thermal taking a stork high into the october sky. I would float by a flock of crowned cranes and join their owaaaaani calls, dissolving like aspirin in a glass.
At night walking with a torch you send your breath into the trees and wait for it to come back with the rumble of elephanttalk or the chomp of a hippo. You cast your torch in swathes, dowsing for danger, alert for every elephant shrew spring.
In the city, its different. You gotta be alert in Jozi. Its far, far more dangerous than the wilderness. Taxis slice and dice, the murder rate is higher than a good night for leopards on the wafwa and if you have a covetable car you are prey. So, I'm a lert and our city needs lerts. But the wideopen energy thing, doesn't work here. Damn I spend a fortune driving from one side of the city to the other, R2 at every robot, and a wrung out heart. I'm a pushover. In the bush, you see a packet someone dropped out their car, you pick it up. You respond. In the city, I can't respond to every blemish, sobstory, gluesniffing streetbrat and garbage spill I encounter. But if I'm not vigilant, it all gets in, tugs at me and leaves me exhausted. Daily, I come up with really good plans for homeless Zimbabweans, people living on and eating out of rubbish dumps, abandoned pets and child-headed households. Can I implement all these plans? I can't.
So that was a long introduction to two very interesting examples of boundarylessness from the last 36 hours: the meeting with the Lieberman pottery guy, and the knocking over of the front gate.
I have a friend, H, who is by nurture and spirit every bit as wild and discombobulated by city life as I am. In each other's company something quite magical happens that by other folks' definitions would seem completely disfunctional. We get crazy. Both too wideopen for our own goods, we also relish the relief of not trying to be too sane in each others company. Usually, we do coffee in the safety of our homes or we go to the theatre. I have never been 'to town' with H, with a set to-do list. Until yesterday.
Task 1: die Boekehuis, Melville. She will intro me to the lady there and see if they will stock the book. On the way there I impulsively swing down a certain road to show her a certain paint colour on a certain wall. We run into a friend of hers - a fortuitous synchronicity. Glad we turned down that road. The bookshop? unsuccessful.
Task 2: Adam Levine's shop Imagine Nation at the trendy 44 Stanley Rd. I want him to stock my book in his shop. Adam's not there and I fumble shyly in my bag pretending I have a business card when I don't and muttering that I will come back later. On our way back to the car - a chance encounter with an old friend who I have been wondering how to track down, coz she's in publishing and could help. Synchronicitous.
Task 3: the Newtown bookshop near the market theatre that stocks books on Africa. On the way we drive past Lieberman's pottery where I've been meaning to go for ever and I say so and H says, yes lets so I swing left and park and we step into the magical forest of clay vessels that is Mr pottery guy's sticky web.
I love pots. I have an affinity for clay, glazes and vitrified earth. In a former life I was a Chinese potter with a plaited moustache that reached my knees. Mr pottery man, Adriaan, sussed us instantly. Two pretty girls on a quiet friday afternoon? Maybe. I like to think there was more going on. He looked right at me
A: Where are you from?
Me: Um, well, that's a long story
H: She's from Zambia. From the bush. The bushbush.
A: Oh really? You look foreign. What can I do for you here? You brought me lots of money?
Me: Haha. Um. I like pottery, I've been meaning to come here for absolute ever
H: She's got lots of books. Do you want to see her book?
Me: Ja, its um, its a book on Zambian ceremonies.
A: African ceremonies? Like, traditional ceremonies? I'm an anthropologist, I used to be very interested in ceremonies.
A: I have over 200 hours of footage of traditional pottery techniques from all over the world.
H: Oh! I see a book! Another book!A pottery book!
Me: I'm fascinated by that stuff. What about a documentary? She's from a TV family.
The afternoon split wide open.
We talked about all kinds of things. The manic depressive Japanese potter who created the exquisite glowing celadon bowls that I admired. His oh fuck theory of political science. Being Jewish married to a German and meeting her Nazi parents. Guilt. His Divorce. How being born into a family of artists (or writers, or potters) will keep you in the loop of poor business sense and giving away your products for free. I swopped my book for some beautiful plant pots – pots for stories, its always been a good exchange.
It was one of those timeless magical afternoons, it wouldn't have happened if H and I weren't so mutually open, boundaries merging with the afternoon, with the cold front coming, with the energy of a sad clay salesman and two kooky artist bush girls in the city. I'm reminded of Martin Buber: "every journey has a secret destination, of which the traveller is unaware"
Then its nighttime and my man and I are Friday night lazy and not into cooking and I have a wheatfree pizza in the oven and we pre-order one for him from the little pizzeria down the road ( I love take-aways, never take em for granted).
We get in the car. I remember my pizza in the oven. Oh shit. We must drive like the wind so we can be back in time for mine.
He puts foot. The merc (an automatic) is in reverse. The gate is not open. The gate is derailed.
And within five minutes, so are we. Yes, the same boy who fell off the ladder 3 weeks ago has now reversed into the gate. His arm is still messed up from the fall so he can't help me put the (very heavy) gate back on its tracks. As men often do in situations where they feel a bit helpless, he gets overdirective, which always riles me (that thing about dependence I mentioned earlier – I don't take instruction well) I get the irrit in me and within minutes we are a swearing mess. We get a pole to try and fulcrum the gate back into the right place and it falls forward and I catch it with my shoulder and several litres of adrenalin. We prop it up on some metal poles and go to bed, figuring anyone who tries to breech this gap will get booby trapped. Our own personal booby trap is that on bad days we are way too sensitive to each other's energies. “You were in a panic so I got into a panic.”
Eish. Boundaries, boundaries, I tell you.